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A Hormone-Sucking Strip That Will Keep Your Vegetables Fresh

There is a chemical inside most fruits and vegetables that causes them to start to rot. But a new little adhesive strip sucks it out. That’s not just a boon for supermarkets—it’s going to save a lot of wasted food.

Imagine if there was a way to quickly suck out the hormones that get added to your milk, eggs, or meat. That’s not going to happen anytime soon. British supermarket Tesco is, however, using a hormone-sucking strip on its avocados and tomatoes. The strip doesn’t remove any sort of added hormones; it removes ethylene—the hormone that turns fruit ripe and then moldy as it ages.

Created by a company called It’s Fresh, the small hormone-removal strip is made up of minerals and clay that are effective at a variety of temperatures and levels of humidity. Tesco estimates that putting hormone-sucking strips on its packages of tomatoes and avocados could cut the waste equivalent of 350,000 packs of avocados and 1.6 million packs of tomatoes annually.

An independent trial from the University of Greenwich confirms the strip’s usefulness: "As a consequence of the effect of wet bruising, soft rots, mould and appearance, it appears that particularly under temperature controlled conditions, both the shelf life and home life of treated fruit is substantially extended."

The It’s Fresh strip could make it more worthwhile for grocery stores to ship produce from halfway across the world. That’s not necessarily a good thing for local suppliers. But the strip could be useful for them too, giving farmers a bit of breathing room when they have, say, a bumper crop of tomatoes followed by a shortage.

Tesco won’t start using the strip until the spring, but Marks & Spencer has already started using the 3"x2" strip on its strawberries—a move that the retailer hopes will save 800,000 strawberries during peak season.

No word on pricing, but at least one other British supermarket (Asda) has ditched the technology after concluding that the extra cost wasn’t worth the amount of produce saved. As climate change increases the unpredictability of our food supply, they may reconsider.